Remembering Jack Lord

Merchant Mariner

"Sinking of the SS Robin Moor" (1941) by Michael Mate
American Merchant Marine Museum (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

This plaque honors Jack for a part of his life when he nearly lost his life in service to his country and when

his service to his country cost him his marriage and the joy of knowing his child.

Commemorative plaque given in Jack's honor by seven friends of Remembering Jack Lord

Memorial Arbors, US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York (Photograph provided by the USMMA)

Jack served as a merchant mariner. Merchant mariners can be men hired as laborers, or they can be highly trained ship's officers, who have studied at a merchant marine academy. Jack began as the former, when he was only 14 years old. His first sail was during Christmas break from school. He described the experience of being away from his family at Christmas as being very lonely and the point at which the boy became a man. Thereafter, he spent most holidays at sea, until he graduated from New York University in 1942.

By then, World War II was in full swing. Jack's dreams of pursuing his love of art had to be put on the back burner when the government drafted all merchant mariners and required them to serve the war effort. After working for the Army Corps of Engineers in Persia (Iran), Jack returned to the Merchant Marine and began serving on merchant ships. One of those ships was torpedoed off the coast of Italy and sank in seven minutes with a heavy loss of life. Jack nearly lost his life before he made his way aboard a lifeboat. Sixteen hours passed before he was rescued. 

Returning Stateside, Jack enrolled in the US Maritime Service's Officer Training School, then located at the Coast Guard Academy at Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut. In June of 1945, Jack received a commission into the US Maritime Service at the rank of ensign with a third mate's license.

Jack’s commission included an obligation to serve the Maritime Service for an additional period of time. As mentioned in Jack's Biography, he was sent to Washington, where he served as an artist for service publications and then appeared in training films. Jack’s obligation to the Maritime Service did not end until 1948.

Imagine you sailed back and forth and delivered cars to other countries. There were 24,000 of these
merchant mariners that did this for a living...just like they do today to bring goods for Walmart. War
breaks out and Congress & FDR decide to take over all the shipping industries and turn all of these
guys into sailors. They DRAFTED the entire bunch of these men. If they went AWOL, they were arrested.
They had no choice even tho people still think they could have turned down any job. No they could not.

~ Sheila Sova, Advocate for Merchant Mariners of World War II

Torpedoed Merchant Ship
Government of the United Kingdom (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Just like the ship on which Jack served, the fantail was blown off this ship, causing it to sink.

History of the Maritime Service Officer Training School in Fort Trumbull, Connecticut

                          The following paragraph from the article sums up Jack's attendance there:

                         Maritime Officers Training School at Fort Trumbull graduated 15,473 officers in 76 classes between 
                         1939 and 1946, when the operation was transferred to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Liberty Ships

At the outset of World War II, the government commandeered passenger ships, stripped them of their accoutrements, and put them to work transporting men and materiel to war zones around the world. The ships were attacked regularly by enemy aircraft and submarines. As a result, more and more ships were needed.

The government began building dedicated ships to pick up where the passenger ships had left off and called them Liberty Ships. More than 2700 of these inexpensive, quick-to-build ships were constructed between 1941 and 1945. The design was a British invention. Indeed, many of the ships went to Britain and Russia under lend-lease agreements to help them with their own ship shortages.

In 1943, under a new shipbuilding program, faster and improved ships were built for the same purposes. These ships were known as Victory ships.

Two Surviving Liberty Ships

The SS John W. Brown and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien are the only two surviving, operational Liberty ships. The SS John W. Brown is moored in Baltimore, Maryland. Following World War II, she served as a school ship to train new merchant mariners.  In the picture below, she is seen entering Norfolk Harbor in Virginia in 2016. The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is moored in San Francisco, California. She is noted for her participation in D-Day activities. Both operate as museum ships and offer tours and occasional cruises.

For more information about these ships, tours, and cruises, follow these links:

Take a tour or a cruise aboard the SS John Brown (Baltimore)

or aboard the SS Jeremiah O'Brien (San Francisco)

Left: SS John W. Brown (US Navy / Military Sealift Command);
Right: SS Jeremiah O'Brien (Jerryway / Dreamstime Images)

The Merchant Marine on Hawaii Five-0
SS Monterey (Used by permission of historian,

One of the passenger ships, the SS Monterey, owned by Matson Lines, was converted to a Liberty Ship and renamed the USAT Monterey. On November 6, 1943, its master, Capt Elis Johanson, responded to the attack of the troop ship SS Santa Elena and rescued all 1700 men from the foundering ship on that dark, rainy, and windy night, without loss of a single life. For his achievement, Capt Johanson was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for remarkable service in action with the enemy.

The SS Monterey was one of five Matson passenger liners comprising its White Fleet in the 1930s. It was not returned to Matson after the war, although Matson did purchase a Merchant Marine ship, the SS Free State Mariner, and convert it to a passenger liner of the same name. That is the ship we saw on "Killer at Sea" (Season 6).


--   Killer at Sea (Season 6)

Just as commercial freighters and tankers are operated by merchant mariners, so are commercial passenger ships. In "Killer at Sea" (Season 6), we take a cruise aboard the SS Monterey. Originally owned and operated by Matson Lines, it was owned by Pacific Far East Lines at the time of shooting the episode.

As McGarrett and the ship's security officer prepare to search the forward hold for the missing money, they discover that the klaxon, the light on the attenuator panel, and the security strip on the door's lock have been breached. Only someone with advanced inside knowledge of ship security would know how to do this. McGarrett says this isn't something an ordinary seaman would know. The security officer adds that it's not even something an able-bodied seaman would know. They agree that it had to have been the work of someone at the rank of deck officer.

We learn still more about the work of merchant mariners when we view the fire drills for passengers and crew members. Although the show says the drills are required by the Coast Guard, they really are mandated by international martime law. At the time the episode was filmed, these drills had to be held within 24 hours of setting sail and were shown being held the morning after the SS Monterey set sail. After the sinking of the SS Costa Concordia in 2012, the International Maritime Organization recommended that the drills be held either just before or immediately after setting sail. That regulation went into effect on January 1, 2015.

You can learn much more about these issues by watching NOVA: Why Ships Sink (PBS, 2012), available on Netflix.


--   Murder - Eyes Only (Season 8)

Although they were not discussed in the episode, merchant mariners were responsible for operating the Seaflite hydrofoil, Kamehameha. In the episode, the Kamehameha served as Wo Fat's hideout and intended getaway vessel. In real life, it provided interisland transportation for several years, then abandoned, and later brought back. Currently, no interisland ferry operates into or out of Honolulu.


--   Wooden Model of a Rat (Season 8) 

We also learn a bit about the Merchant Marine in "Wooden Model of a Rat" (Season 8). Merchant seaman Dan Muzekian (Walter Jones) was facing legal action after being arrested for importing stolen Japanese artifacts out of Singapore. It seems that it isn't wise to do such favors, not even for $100.


--   You Don't See Many Pirates These Days (Season 10)

The tramp steamer seen in "You Don't See Many Pirates These Days" (Season 10) was called the SS Aldebaran. It is interesting to note that, in real life, there was a Navy ship by the same name. It was not a tramp steamer, although it did begin life as a merchant ship, the SS Stag Hound.

In January 1941, the SS Stag Hound was commissioned by the Navy as the USS Aldebaran (AF-10). She served throughout World War II as a stores ship in the Asian and Pacific Theater.  After the war, she was put to work in the Atlantic Theater. She was retired in 1968 and removed from Navy inventory in 1973.

"You Don't See Many Pirates These Days" gives us a glimpse into Jack's life, when he worked summers and holidays at sea. He wrote about tramp steamers. It seems possible that he served aboard them in the early years, before the Merchant Marine assigned him to freighters. It is interesting to view the interior shots of the SS Aldebaran, to see what the galley, wheel house, engine room, and captain's quarters looked like. I would like to have seen the crew's quarters, as well. It is also interesting to see that the crewmen were good men, who respected their captain and valued their work aboard the old tramp steamer. Some enjoyed cooking. Some worried about saving their meager earnings. They all too easily could find themselves caught up in political and military actions that were ongoing at their ports of call. No shore leave  there; the order of the day was unload, load, and get out!

Read more about and see pictures of the USS Aldebaran:

--  Shake Hands With the Man on the Moon (Season 7), Small Potatoes (Season 11), M Station: Hawaii (1980)

The Falls of Clyde, a 19th century tall ship, served with Matson lines for many years. In 2008, the Friends of the Falls of Clyde purchased the ship from the Bishop Museum in an effort to prevent the museum from scuttling her at sea. Now, the ship is again under threat of being scuttled by powers that want her removed from Honolulu Harbor. The original deadline to remove the ship from the harbor was August of 2015. Since then, she has survived more deadlines. Currently (2017), efforts are underway in the United Kingdom to have Falls of Clyde returned to Scotland, where she was built. If the measure is successful, she will be restored there for use as a museum ship.

The sums needed are far more than most individuals can hope to donate, but the Friends are seeking an extension of time in order to raise the funds. They also are applying for grants to provide needed funding.  If you would like to help the Friends save

Falls of Clyde, visit their page:

Good News!  The Falls of Clyde has been placed on the United Kingdom's Register of Historical Ships. This will make it easier to protect her from being taken out to sea and scuttled before interested parties in Scotland, where she was built, can have her returned home and restored. This announcement was made on February 23, 2017.

In November / December 2017, personnel from the Save the Falls of Clyde - International visited personnel in Honolulu as a part of planning operations for moving the ship home to Scotland. She will be moved aboard a massive heavy-lift or float-on/float-off vessel. This type of vessel was used to transfer the USS Fitzgerald from Japan to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where repairs are being made to the $500 million of damage done in its collision with a merchant ship last summer. (Read more about it and see pictures:
Falls of Clyde is seen moored at the Honolulu Maritime Center (Webmaster)

The American Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II posted a link on Twitter

to Remembering Jack Lord. Thank you, AMMVWWII.  Thank you, Sheila Sova, for

sharing it with us.

The picture that shows Jack in a Coast Guard uniform bearing one star was taken

when the Coast Guard Auxiliary named Jack an honorary commodore. The picture
promoted the Coast Guard's courtesy boat inspection program, which was featured 

on Hawaii Five-0 in  Season 3's "And a Time to Die." 

The bottom picture shows Jack at the helm of the Falls of Clyde, the four-masted 

tall ship that is being returned to Scotland from Hawai'i for restoration and 

preservation. The Falls of Clyde appeared in several episodes of Hawaii Five-0

This publicity shot probably was made during the filming of a scene in Season 10's

"Small Potatoes."